City of Windsor says it was unprepared for influx of international students

St. Clair College recently took in more than 3,000 international students for the summer semester which has made it challenging for some international students to find adequate housing. Transit Windsor is also feeling the effects of an increased number of international students.

One student said a Transit Windsor bus could not pick him up because it was overcrowded

This bus stop at the corner of Campbell Avenue and Wyandotte Street is used by many international students. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

An influx of international students has caught the City of Windsor off guard.

St. Clair College recently took in more than 3,000 international students for the summer semester which has made it challenging for some international students to find adequate housing.

Rob Vani, manager of inspections in the City of Windsor's building department, said he is not surprised about the housing challenges.

He said he met with some international students a couple of weeks ago at the college and heard about the problems with finding accommodations, as well as the condition of some of the housing. 

"They were telling us that they were still looking for places and that they were having difficulties finding places," said Vani. "And they were looking all over the city, not just around the university or St. Clair College. They were looking as far as Forest Glade and even into the LaSalle area."

While he said the city can't help people find accommodations, they can help if the rental is "substandard."

This photo submitted to CBC News shows a group of international students who all lived under one roof. There are three people absent from this photo. The house included just one kitchen and two washrooms for a total of 20 tenants. (Submitted)

A photo submitted to CBC News shows a group of 20 international students who all lived under one roof. The house included just one kitchen and two washrooms for a total of 20 tenants. 

Vani said there are bylaws regarding the maximum number of people who can live in a house or apartment.

"In our bylaw, you need a minimum of 97 square feet, or 9 square metres in metric, for every person," he said.

But the bottom line, said Vani, is that Windsor doesn't have enough rental units to accommodate the influx of students.

"Strictly from what I understand from the numbers I've seen from CHC (Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation) it's probably going to be very difficult to accommodate these large numbers," he said.

Transit Windsor skipping pick-ups

Transit Windsor is also feeling the effects of an increased number of international students.

Skipped pick-ups have become more common since January, after St. Clair College took in 1,500 international students for the winter semester.

Albert Sharp shows off the hospital admission band he received Tuesday night after spending eight hours in the emergency waiting room. He said a Transit Windsor bus refused to pick him up because it was too crowded. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)
 

Albert Sharp, a student at Walkerville Collegiate Institute, said the Dominion 5 and Dougall 6 were too crowded to pick him up the night he spent eight hours in the emergency room.

"I was coming home from the hospital actually and I had to stand outside for half an hour because there was no room on the bus," he said.

Windsor Transit said there was a 25 per cent increase in ridership on the Dominion 5 bus route — caused by St. Clair College's intake of international students during the winter semester.

"Back in January, we had a lot of unsatisfied riders because those buses were being filled right from the start of the route at St. Clair College and a number of riders were being bypassed," said Pat Delmore, Executive Director of Transit Windsor.

Delmore said they have added more buses to the morning route to St. Clair College, and some express buses in the evening to take students to the West end and downtown.

"When this first hit us in January, we were not prepared for this," said Delmore. "We were unaware of the new international student system that was taking place at St. Clair College." 

Delmore said he's heard that the buses aren't as crowded as they were a few months ago.

"The additional service is helping. We may not be totally there yet. We've got to continue our evaluation of the service and the ridership needs, recognizing that we don't have additional budget dollars. This is all being over and above the allocated budget that city council has provided to Transit Windsor."